Tag Archives: travel

Flat Martini in Washington DC!

Thrilled to be guest blogging for the talented and hilarious Danielle Herzog at https://www.facebook.com/MartinisAndMinivans helping to chronicle the adventures of her good friend Flat Martini (he’s like Flat Stanley, only more alcoholic…) Check out our exploits!

http://www.martinisandminivans.com/flat-martini-returns-to-one-of-his-favorite-places-but-this-time-in-a-new-city/

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

Fear of Flying

06.20.14-fear-of-flying-3

Among many other personality idiosyncrasies that seem to be worsening with age, I have developed an increasingly frustrating aversion to flying. On a plane, that is.

In my youth, I remember the idea of taking a trip to some far away exotic place like Buenos Aires or Cleveland as something magical and thrilling. Even having to wake up in the wee hours of the morning before the sun rose and leaving the house in blackness created a sense of mysterious purpose and adventure. I was a hobbit in a Tolkien story, throwing my leather knapsack over my shoulder (or perhaps dragging a vinyl Strawberry Shortcake carry-on case) and starting off on a journey of great importance. To slay a dragon. Or visit grandparents. Whatever.

Part of the thrill was surely the novelty of it; because I can count on one finger how many plane excursions I took between the ages of two and 15. We were a family of automobile passengers; my parents content to contain our escapades within the tri-state area. As such, I remained a less-experienced traveler throughout much of my youth, resulting in a somewhat diminished appreciation for foreign cultures. For instance, as a seven year old, on an extremely rare foray to Puerto Rico, I remember the highlight of the trip being the several large bowls of Rice Krispies I was allowed to eat for breakfast in the hotel, a delicacy I was not sanctioned to enjoy at home.

Sadly, just as air travel became more of a necessity in my life, my enthusiasm for it waned as the post-911 airport complexities and entanglements took a firm grip on the industry. Although I realize the absurdity of diminishing the required anti-terrorism tactics by using the phrase ‘a real killjoy’, I can’t help recalling fondly the last time I made it through a security line without catching a sock in my shoe as I hopped along attempting to remove multiple layers of clothing with one hand while I guided dirty plastic bins containing my belongings through the conveyor belt with the other.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy waiting in lines. Or being herded like cattle through an x-ray machine that will no doubt at any minute be proven to cause cancer. Or being forced to guzzle down the bottle of water I just bought for $5.00 before I get to the front of the security line. Or sucking up to TSA officials on the off chance they might find me suspicious-looking (I’m not sure I have ever resembled my own driver’s license photo). Or being charged an additional $50 for every extra pound over some arbitrary pre-determined mass that my suitcase may weigh. Or keeping all my liquid items under 4 ounces and sealed in a plastic bag in my purse. Or removing my belt in front of strangers. Or watching other strangers remove their belts in front of me.  Actually, I take it back – I don’t enjoy any of that.

Lately, being forced to spend time in the airport makes me angry. Just considering the possibility, as distant as it may be, that my flight will be delayed or cancelled puts me on high rage alert, as I psyche myself up for an inevitable argument with a customer service representative or flight attendant. The fact that I have no control over how many minutes are spent sitting near a gate waiting to depart or even on the plane before take-off creates in me a perfect storm of anxiety, apprehension and angst. By the time I’m told to ‘sit back, relax and enjoy the flight’, I have a pulsing vein in my temple.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy paying for meals that used to be free. Or paying for headphones that used to be free. Or paying for movies that used to be free. Or being told ‘cashews are for first class only.’

Besides the internal psychological warfare that accompanies any trip I may take on a plane these days, there is the continuing and exasperating demise of my physical tolerance for turbulence. Whether it’s directly related to some aging symptom of my impending decrepitude or perhaps an indication that my mind-body connection is disconnecting, I find myself increasingly incapable of dealing with air bumps. My head and stomach suffer varying degrees of nausea as the plane tilts and rolls over invisible pockets of air, causing me to grip the arm rests of my tiny seat with sweaty palms as I stare out the window (which a….l…w…a…y…s… has the shade stuck) in vain and count the seconds until we land.

What usually makes the experience all the more painful is the apparent immunity to such suffering that I am forced to witness in my fellow passengers. On a recent plane ride, I was aggravated to have my sense of sickness compounded by the aroma of a tuna fish sandwich, calmly being consumed across the aisle by Jon Lovits’ doppelganger. As the plane leaned to an angle in the sky that implied we were nearly upside down and my stomach lurched appropriately, I was aghast to notice Jon serenely chewing and swallowing his lunch (upside down!), pausing only to notice my pale and clammy stare. He winked, which I took as a direct indication of his lack of humanity.

The practice of flying, like many other aspects of my life, has revealed itself to be disillusioning as I have grown older. However, currently my travel options are limited. Although, I’ll bet if I live long enough to see it, teleportation will get old too. I mean, all that molecule rearranging just sounds messy.

4 Comments

Filed under Essays, humor, Writing

Port-OutLandish

Cupcake-Bicycle-Jack-Cesareo-Keep-Portland-Weird

Over the past ten years, several of my husband’s and my relatives have relocated to Portland, Oregon, and every time I go to visit, I am reminded of how incessantly nice everyone is. As well as being way cooler-looking than me. Not to mention laid-back and colloquial. Other than all that, I usually have a great time.

I have nothing against niceness in small doses. In fact, I appreciate it – it keeps the planet from becoming a bunch of puppy-kicking public belchers who wear large, obtrusive hats to the theater. But, after enduring a week of being surrounded by folks (nice people are also known as ‘folks’) who were randomly helpful enough to turn around in a crowd and supply me with a forgotten line to an obscure 1950’s musical song I had been singing (to myself), it became a bit unnerving.  Not to mention, it forced me – a native New-Yorker who keeps her eyes averted in elevators and sometimes forgets jay-walking is a crime – to examine my own typical behaviors in public and find them greatly lacking.

Discovering you are in a city in which everyone is a lot nicer than you starts out as a pleasant surprise. You find that most people are smiling and offering helpful information when you ask, rather than blatantly ignoring you or staring straight down at their phones. As a result, I made a concerted effort to be nicer myself. A family of five, traveling with small children, we were constantly offered seats on buses or restaurants or the opportunity to move ahead on a line. My initial shock (“Are you sure??  Oh, wow, thank you so much!”) eventually gave way to expectation (“Don’t worry, this guy will let us in.”) and finally to apathy and indifference. On Thanksgiving morning, my mother-in-law realized she was short on stuffing and dispatched me to the supermarket to pick up some more. Standing in the stuffing aisle I looked for the larger bags, but could only find small boxes on the shelves. I called the house to determine which box to buy, and as I explained the choices over the phone, an incredibly nice woman tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “They have the larger bags in Aisle 8, if that’s what you’re looking for.” How nice! (But, did you have to interrupt my phone conversation?)

Later, as I ducked into a pharmacy to grab an item I’d forgotten to pack, I noticed the long line at the register and groaned some obscenity under my breath. The woman standing in front of me turned and suggested I go ahead of her with my single item. How nice! “In fact,” she said brightly, glancing over at the pharmacy counter, “I’ll bet you could pay for that over there. There’s no one there right now.” How nice! (But, if you say it so loud, everyone will hear!) At the pharmacy register, the cashier looked briefly troubled. “Well, we’re not really supposed to ring up regular items here, but if it’s only one item…and if you can keep it a secret…” she smiled and winked. I winked back…..and immediately asked if I could add a pack of gum to the sale.

It’s slightly depressing to know that my reaction to consistent and prolonged niceness is to become immune to it or even take advantage of it. By the time we arrived at the airport to fly home, any remnants of my contact niceness had worn off, and I had reverted back to my loud-mouthed, gum-cracking, phone-checking self. I yelled at my kids to behave, argued with my husband in front of a crowd and responded to a well-meaning gentleman who pointed out two small tables on the far end of an airport cafeteria that could be pushed end to end ‘so my family could sit together’ by retorting “Thanks, but none of us want to sit near each other right now!”

In theory, being nice usually goes along with a certain aesthetic. Little old ladies with cats are generally nice. Boy scouts are nice. So, it’s even more distressing when I am forced to deal with nice people who don’t fit the stereotypical visual. If I had a dime for every person with full tattoo sleeves and multiple facial piercings merrily pushing their child in a stroller down the street where I live in the suburbs of Washington, DC – well, I’d be broke. But, Portland seems to thrive with a plethora of parents who fly their freak flags loud and proud. Back at the bottom of Capital Hill, where most moms fit a mold of age-appropriate highlighted lobs and sensible flats, I am considered to be a bit of a radical myself, what with my three tattoos that actually poke their way out of my shirt sleeves on occasion.  But, I felt like such a conservative Republican walking through the streets of Portland amongst the purple-haired, tatted-up moms and dads, I sensed the need to surreptitiously pull my sleeves up a bit higher just to broadcast my own fairly small badge of inked simpatico style. “I’m cool, too,” I tried to remind myself. In fact, I once owned a pair of Dr. Marten’s.

Other than being nice, Portland is known for being weird. It’s a directive they promote on billboards and buses – “Keep Portland Weird.” I’m not sure what kind of tax breaks or government-funded incentives the denizens are offered to keep their city weird, but it seems to work in subtle ways to ensure the city lives up to its motto.  East Coast/West Coast grammatical differences notwithstanding (I prefer to stand ‘on line’ rather than ‘in line’, much to the horror of the local Target clerk to whom I mentioned it), my husband and I witnessed several weird behaviors during our Portland trip. At the Apple Store, the only sign the salesman gave that he noticed the loud and slightly belligerent homeless man wandering around behind him was to raise his voice ever so slightly as he continued to point out the features of the latest MacBook Pro. While parallel parking on the street, we were reminded by a rather formal young man walking out to the car behind us that, ‘just for the record’, he needed more room to back up. At a coffee shop, while waiting for our order, several bundled-up Sunday morning customers remarked about how cold the weather was. The clerk behind the counter agreed, adding “It’s like someone stole the big warm blanket that’s usually up in the sky to keep us comfy and safe from the cold.” I gave my husband a wry smile at this point; surely that comment would be considered weirder than normal – even here. But instead of eyebrow furrows and stares, the other patrons nodded sagely, no doubt mulling over the necessary thickness of such an astral shroud.

I’m sure if I spent more than a week in Portland at any given time, I would grow more accustomed to the niceness and weirdness. Probably the weirdness more than the niceness. I’m kind of weird myself, but I’m definitely not that nice.

1 Comment

Filed under Essays, humor, Writing